New Orleans museum trip sobering time

Published 12:30 am Sunday, December 4, 2011

The theater darkens, a prop 1940s radio rises from the stage and the voice of Franklin D. Roosevelt rings throughout the massive room. A 150-foot media screen comes to life and it is the pre-dawn hours of Dec. 7, 1941.

The Japanese fleet zeroed in on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. A surprise attack against the American mainland launched America into the second great war.

What follows at the National World War II Museum in New Orleans is an hour chronicling the four-year involvement from the surprise attack through the preparation of the attack on mainland Japan.

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Wednesday will mark the 70th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor. Each day, according to statistics provided by the Veterans Administration, World War II veterans are dying at a rate of 740 per day. When the war came to its conclusion after the dropping of the second atomic bomb on mainland Japan on Aug. 9, 1945, more than 16 million veterans returned home from the war. There are slightly more than 2 million remaining World War II veterans living today. It is estimated that by 2036 that there will be no living veterans to recount their experiences.

The New Orleans museum — located just off St. Charles Avenue near Lee Circle — documents through exhibits and videos Americans’ involvement in the war. It takes visitors from the impact on our troops overseas and the women at home who were thrust into service manufacturing military hardware, bullets and tanks. The collective effort that generation of Americans put forth is a story of awe and reverence.

The sacrifices made at home and abroad were so different than today. While this country still is involved in two overseas conflicts, the sacrifices the people here at home have had to make are minimal at best.

Seventy years ago Wednesday, America was thrust into a war it wanted no part of against enemies of amazing strength. Our parents and grandparents built almost from the ground up a military that could have a chance against evil on both sides of the world. They did what had to be done to secure a free world. More than 400,000 Americans never came home.

New Orleans is known as the Big Easy for its laissez fair attitude and ability to throw a party. On your next trip, between the revelry, find a way to Lee Circle and the museum.

Study the exhibits, marvel at the video presentation and lose yourself in thought of what those men and women faced — and how they responded.

It is a sobering journey, yet one that will make you proud as ever to be American.